With the last bank holiday upon us, we put our thinking caps on to come up with somewhere picturesque to take little Cyrus. We arrived at the same conclusion – there’s nowhere more beautiful than The Alnwick Garden in Northumberland.
The stunning scenery and lavish use of flowers certainly takes some beating and is simply ‘paradaida’ (paradise in old Persian).
Now until our visit with little C’s Pesar Khaleh (H’s cousin) last month, I hadn’t been to Alnwick Castle since I was a child (more than 35 years ago).
We’d planned to go a number of times, but each time Pesar Khaleh visited us it was winter or early spring and the castle and gardens were closed. H and I were excited when he arrived for a summer visit this year as it meant we could finally explore The Alnwick Garden in all its glory.
Parks and gardens part of Persian heritage
Parks and gardens are a really important part part of Persian heritage and also my heritage too. While I’ve been lucky enough to stroll around many of them at home and overseas, it’s always resulted in me talking to the in-laws about the history, castles, coastline and beautiful scenery I’ve grown up with here in the North East of England.
When I was young, my family would take me to a beautiful park in Morpeth, Northumberland. As a new mum over 40, it’s those special times that I reflect on.
As little C continues to grow at a rapid rate, H has stressed the importance of taking him out in the fresh air to visit local gardens and parks. They offer us somewhere for personal reflection, help to strengthen family bonds, and any pool of water in C’s eyes is just great for just splashing around and having fun.
Just like the Persian gardens I’ve been able to see, The Alnwick Garden has every sort of plant and flower imaginable. More importantly for C it also has running water. The gardens are divided into distinct areas. There is an ornamental garden, cherry orchard, poison garden, grand cascade and my personal favourite, the rose garden.
Persian history of gardening
To give you a little bit of Persian history on gardening, the Achaemenid King Cyrus developed a special garden plan. The *Chahar Bagh plan had a rectangular canal pattern in which waterways or pathways were used to quarter the garden. In fact, the gardens of the Taj Mahal are based on Cyrus’s design.
*In Persian, chahar means four and bagh means garden.
A pavilion is an important part of any Persian garden plan and The Alnwick Garden didn’t let us down on that front. We stopped for coffee and lunch at The Pavilion Cafe, which is located next to the entrance. Once seated, we were able to enjoy the sheer scale of the garden’s Great Cascade, while taking in the sweet aroma of all the beautiful flowers around us.
Perfect for a spot of lunch
As all the walking had made us a little peckish, we ordered three sandwiches and coffees/soft drinks which came to £20.50. The sandwiches were absolutely delicious and were so very filling that we didn’t want to move!
We are still to visit The Treehouse eaterie at The Alnwick Garden, but as this trip is sure to be the first of many for our family, I’m sure we’ll get around to it next time!
Beautiful scents in the rose garden
The roses and other flowers on display in the Ornamental Garden intoxicated Pesar Khaleh with their heavenly scent. C was more interested in eating strawberries, splashing in the stream and trying to get his hands on flower petals.
The Alnwick Garden’s layout with its paved courtyards, arcades, pools, symmetrical designs and fountains makes elaborate use of water. It took me back to those I have seen overseas at the resting place of the poets Hafez and Saa’di.
Main waterway and a pool
Earth, vegetation, atmosphere and water are all important elements of any Persian garden. The ornamental garden in Alnwick is built in a similar fashion with vertical lines and a main waterway with a pool at its entrance.
While Cyrus’s chahar bagh gardens in Persia could have contained fruit trees such as pomegranate and cherries, The Alnwick Garden has an orchard. It’s filled with more than 100 cherry trees, all neatly planted on a slope in staggered rows. H and Pesar Khaleh were able to return to their boyhood on one of the many swings in the orchard.
And then little C joined in with the afternoon’s antics too…
While H and I are far away from the beauty of Persian parks, it’s great to have somewhere beautiful close by. It evokes good memories of family, but is only a 35-minute car journey away rather than 4,000 miles away.
Tractors for the kids
The Alnwick Garden appeals to the whole family. There is so much to see and do there for everyone of all ages. Little C found something he loved. The children’s tractors are a tremendous idea and positioned perfectly for parents to keep an eye on their young people.
For older children and big kids like us, there was also a fairytale quest to take part in. I loved walking around the garden spotting all the fairytale clues, such as the one below. It was a real adventure.
All in all, we had a fantastic day at The Alnwick Garden in Northumberland and it certainly strengthened our family ties. We’ve vowed not to leave it so long until our next trip there though.
You can also visit The Alnwick Garden in summer between March 31st and October 31st, between 10am and 6pm. For more information, check out the website here.
About The Alnwick Garden
The Alnwick Garden is a charity. The Alnwick Garden Trust which operates The Alnwick Garden, has delivered incalculable benefits to the rural surroundings of Alnwick. From much-needed employment opportunities, work experience and tourism revenue for the local economy, to outreach programmes to provide services and support to disadvantaged youngsters and their schools, and to older people often isolated and in need. To many individuals, The Alnwick Garden is a lifeline to the local community. Fundraising is ongoing, and everyone can help.